He had been dreaming.
Well, Giles hoped that it had been nothing but a dream, though he had yet to make up his mind if the fragments scattering from his memory were those of some pleasant distillation or the delusional products of some cruel and horrible nightmare. Everything was so hazy, and the inside of his head was throbbing, echoing hollowly in the grip of a torturous hangover.
Releasing a long groan, Giles slowly stirred, but try as he might, his eyes refused to open. Sighing, he attempted to placate his curiosity by ascertaining just where he was. He was lying on his stomach. Of that much he was certain, and the surface beneath him was flat and hard. Maybe he was dead, and he was stretched out in his coffin. But then, wouldn’t he be surrounded by silk? And positioned on his back? What he lay upon was definitely not soft in texture. It was more of a slab, firm and ungiving. And where it pressed against his front, it was cold. Perhaps some type of stone? Or concrete? Well, it was definitely gritty and covered in a layer of fine dust.
With great effort, Giles finally managed to pry open one of his eyes. It wasn’t much help. He couldn’t see. A thick scum of sleepy fluids seemed to have coated his eyeball, and a veil of hair hung across his face, blocking his view. He frowned. From somewhere above a dim light managed to penetrate the shaggy curtain of his bangs, the diffused sparkles dancing dizzily before his eye. He quickly shut his lid again, squeezing it tightly as his headache began to soar in its intensity, the pounding reaching maliciously outward to infect every part of his body now, including it seemed, his toenails and teeth.
Resting for a moment, Giles gathered his strength. All right. He wasn’t dead. Being dead couldn’t possibly feel so miserable. So he was alive. That was good. Then again, perhaps not. He moaned as a wave of sudden nausea swept over him in a powerful and convulsive shudder.
The lurching in his stomach finally passed, dying back to a tolerable level where Giles didn’t feel like his insides were in imminent danger of turning themselves all out. A fermented, sweet taste lingered in his mouth and a sticky sugariness coated his tongue. Giles shivered, his flesh breaking out in ripples of tiny goose-bumps. He was cold and apparently naked, or at least nearly so as best he could tell without looking.
In spite of his confusion and the relentless aching throughout his body, Giles felt the briefest hint of a smile spread its way across his face. Pieces of his dream were slowly coming back to him. Snippets of visions. An alluring smile. A flash of breast. The scintillating bouquet of a woman’s body, curvaceous and ripe, wriggling invitingly within his embrace.
Giles sighed. A slow ripple of muscles stretched hesitantly in his back. He felt his wings lift, unwrapping themselves from around him to flutter tremulously as they unfolded, and he shivered, missing their downy warmth against his exposed flesh. With a weary exhale, he tried to ignore the dull pain that seemed to wrack every inch of his awakening body, thinking instead about where he might be and how he had gotten there.
His mental review was put on hold as a different type of ache soon began to make itself know. Grunting, the Watcher focused his attentions toward the tingling heaviness pulsing in his belly below. The stiffness lying trapped beneath him was tangible proof that there had been at least parts of his dreams that were pleasant enough. He smiled, and giving his pelvis a tentative hitch, Giles ground his hips downward, rubbing his swollen loins against the firm surface beneath him in an effort to relieve his lusty need.
“Here! None of that now! Ain’t no one ever taught you it’s bad manners to get all friendly with other folk’s furniture.”
Giles froze. The voice that had penetrated through his fogged head was a familiar one. Another valiant attempt to open his eyes was met with some measure of success, and turning his face upward, he looked upon a blurry face standing above him.
Giles grunted. His voice had sounded raspy, as if he’d had abused it with too much drink and smoke. He squinted, trying to concentrate on the peroxide bleached image wavering before him. Fighting back another wave of nausea, he gingerly ran his tongue over the inside his mouth. An unappetizing thickness coated his gums and teeth, and with a labored swallow, he tried to speak again.
“What are you doing here, Spike?”
“This happens to be my home,” the vampire curtly replied. “It’s where I live.”
“Ah.” Giles blinked. Surveying his dimly lit surroundings, it took a few moments to recognize where he was. Several bits of worn discarded furniture, some rugs, and a small television provided a sparse but lived in look to the interior of what was obviously a crypt. “Well, that certainly explains why you’re here,” the Watcher mumbled dazedly. “Though it still begs the question, why am I here?”
Spike grinned, his eyes twinkling as he perched himself on the edge of the slab next to his guest. “Don’t you remember?” he chuckled. “Hell, it was your bloody idea. One last belt before you hit the road. Well, you never made it to the road, mate. A couple dozen beers, and the only thing you could hit was the floor on the way down when you passed out.”
“We were drinking?” Giles cringed. Buffy wasn’t going to be happy about that when she found out. Well, at least there was a logical reason for his horrible hangover. But what it didn’t explain was why he was here with Spike. The vampire was the last person he’d choose to go out with to a pub, and yet...
Giles frowned. Disjointed pieces of a scene were unfolding slowly within his pounding head. He remembered a woman. No, several women. Raucous laughter and anxious groping. And Spike, sitting across a table, drinking his beer and smiling wolfishly.
With a tired grimace, Giles struggled to get his arms under him and sit up. After a shaky start, he managed to push his body upright. He groaned as he swung his legs stiffly out over the slab’s edge. Reaching behind him, he tenderly massaged a tense muscle in his back and waited for the spinning in his head to come to a stop again.
“Something...happened.” Giles grimaced, his hand moving from his loosened muscle to the raging pounding that pierced his temple. “Something happened while I was out patrolling.”
“So I heard,” Spike grinned, chortling gleefully. Leaning back, he casually supported his weight on his hands, glancing sideways at the other man with an amused twinkle in eye. “Buffy was in a right mood when she drug you in here. She squawked somethin’ ‘bout these skanky bloodsucking ‘hos’ you’d been fightin’, then got all surly like and had to belt you one after you got a bit fresh with your hands.br>
“Got to hand it to you, Watcher,” the vampire chuckled. “Ain’t too many what I’d know who’d have the stones to cop a feel from a slayer.”br>
The throbbing in Giles head grew suddenly worse as a flash of memory from the night before came flooding back to him. A vision of Buffy’s face, her eyes wide with fear as she backed away burned itself shamefully into his mind.
“Dear, God! I didn’t...” Giles swallowed, drowning in his guilt as he sheepishly prompted the vampire. “She-she’s all right?” he probed hesitantly. “Buffy...I didn’t hurt her?”
Spike smirked. “As if,” he glibly snorted. “She’s the slayer. No one hurts her unless she wants them to. Had a few scratches. Nothing serious,” he further confirmed. “Healing should take care of it soon enough. Other than that, she was just peachy. Well, ‘cept for that snit she had brewin’. She was downright disgusted with you, mate. Said she couldn’t deal with it anymore. Had her own problems, and didn’t need yours muckin’ up her life, too.”
Heaving a sigh, Giles buried his face dejectedly in his hand. “What have I done?” he lamented piteously. “I’ve let her down. I don’t believe Buffy will ever forgive me. Can’t say as I blame her. I’ve been an absolutely horrid monster.”
“Cheer up, Rupes,” Spike grinned, and slapped the brooding Watcher on his bare back. “Bit of groveling, a flashy trinket or two. She’ll get over it. And as for being a monster?” The vampire gave his companion a mischievous wink. “If the slayer ain’t into that kind of thing, well there’s always the birds at the Fish Tank. They seemed to take a well enough liking to the ol’ Ripper. Doubt you’ll have much trouble finding someone to take you home from there.”
“The Fish Tank?” Giles echoed in confusion. He was acquainted with the bar located across town, had even been inside the establishment once or twice while pursuing various leads for his slayer. Worn and seedy looking, the bar was a favorite watering hole for low lifes and characters of questionable repute. Police were constantly being called in to break up fist fights or to investigate the host of suspicious stabbings that seemed to always happen in the surrounding vicinity. It wasn’t at all the type of place Giles would normally have considered frequenting. Yet, if he were to have understood Spike correctly, the vampire had intimated that the two of them had only recently gone there together. It didn’t seem possible, giving that Giles could barely tolerate Spike. Not that there was any love lost in return, for he was sure that the vampire despised him as well. Still, as Giles thought back over the vague events of his dream, he began to realized that the impossible just might have happened, and that he’d actually gone out drinking with his loathsome companion after all.
“Yeah, you were right popular with the ladies last night,” Spike continued, merrily chiding the distressed Watcher. “They seemed to take quite a fancy to those wings of yours. Couldn’t keep their hot little hands off the bleedin’ things. Or the rest of you for that matter,” the vampire added with a baited wink.
To his credit, Giles had the good grace to blush at the implied indelicacy behind the vampire’s comment. And the Watcher’s embarrassment only multiplied as Spike blithely prattled on, dispensing more of his inflammatory banter.
“I’ve met a few Taoumuk demons in my day. Actually dated one for a while. Let me tell you straight off, all that rot about their unbelievable stamina? The rumors of the amazin’ multiple orgasms? It’s all true. Every word of it. Well, least wise it is for the females. Can’t rightly speak for the fellas.
“Anyways,” Spike sniffed, tossing his companion a lopsided grin. “After what I saw last night, you, Watcher Boy, put them stories to shame.” He paused, taking a moment to run his hand through his hair, his head shaking in awed acknowledgment. “Lost track of how many birds you paraded out to that alley. Eight, ten. I can tell you this much. Every one of ‘em came back with a big happy smile on her face, all thanks to you, mate."
Reaching into a pocket, Spike pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, offering one politely to his silent guest. Giles declined with a shake of his head, and the vampire shrugged, fishing out a single smoke to tuck it in his mouth before casually tossing the rest of the pack aside.
“Hafta say, mate, I was impressed,” Spike chortled, the cigarette bobbing as he spoke. Touching his lighter to its tip, he inhaled, drawing in a lung full of the acrid smoke. “Didn’t think it was possible for a bloke to do that much damage to his body and still live. Though, from the looks of you, that last bit might be up for some debate.”
Giles groaned, his husky voice a protest to the mental and emotional agony he had suffered as well as the pain that lingered in his physical body. As Spike looked on in amusement, the Watcher eased himself slowly forward toward the edge of the slab that had been his bed, and with a weary sigh, dropped his angling feet to the ground below. For a moment, Giles continued to cling with almost desperate dependence to the heavy structure, using the weight of its comforting solidity to support his wobbling knees. He pushed tentatively away, and a small step proved that in spite of reservations to the contrary, his legs were still capable of functioning, so with a rumbled moan he trudged off to collect his discarded clothing from where they were scattered about the room.
A brief search managed to produce most of what he had been wearing the previous night. His trousers were the first thing he found, and the closest to the slab. They had definitely seen better days. Streaks of ground in grass stains and what looked like food grease soiled the knees and thighs, as well as several other suspicious substances whose origins he thought it best not to ponder. Finding his undershorts, he stuffed his legs into the incriminating evidence and then slipped his trousers on and went scouting for his shirt.
The scent of stale beer led him to the torn and wrinkled garment buried beneath the pile of empty liquor bottles. By now Giles' head was pounding like an angry metronome, the tempo punishing his brain and body with a furious fervor that seemed like it would go on forever. His taut belly did a lurching flip-flop, and forcing back the rise of bile that had tried to escape, Giles proceeded to fight with his stubborn wings, attempting to tuck them under the folds of his shirt as he struggled to pull it on.
Several minutes of searching failed to turned up only one of his shoes. Since Spike obviously had no interest in helping him solve the mystery of the other’s whereabouts, he gave up on his futile quest, and with shoe in hand, limped barefoot toward the door of the crypt. His body shivered from the cold that managed to penetrate up through the thin, damp musty carpets strewn along his path and into the soles of his feet.
“And where do you think you’re goin’?” Spike challenged his departing guest. Blowing out a stream of smoke through his nostrils, the vampire’s eyes narrowed slightly as he frowned. “Slayer’s due any minute,” he said, raising his voice to follow the other man as he walked away. “She’ll be expectin’ to collect you. If she don’t find you waiting here like I promised her, she ain’t gonna be too pleased with me.”
“Not seeing the problem,” Giles grumbled dryly as he continued to trudge toward the door. “Easy for you to say,” the vampire muttered irritably after him. “It’s not your nose what’ll be payin ’in blood for her pissy fit.”
Giles grunted and turned to face the vampire, his features composed in an expression of deadpan calm. “I realize that this may come as a great shock, Spike, but frankly, I wouldn’t give a sodding fig if Buffy decided to stake you.”
Taking a long final drag, Spike stubbed out his cigarette on the slab where Giles had lain before hopping down to stalk boldly toward the door where the Watcher stood.
“Don’t make me hafta stop you, mate,” he warned the other man. Spike’s fists clenched at his sides, his body tensing for a possible fight. “You’re a demon now, remember? My little chip ain’t going to kick in and save your sorry ass when I start in thrashin' it."
“And you shall be doing that how?” Giles snorted disdainfully. Reaching for the door’s handle, he gave it a hard jerk, swinging the heavy barrier open with a loud squeal of its rusty hinges. Instantly, the crypt’s interior was flooded in a broad splash of sunshine. The sparkling brilliance came pouring in through the open entry, bathing the area around the Watcher in its bright protective glow.
With a startled snarl, Spike jumped back, retreating from the pool of purifying illumination before it could burn him. His face automatically morphed into its vampiric mutation and he glared at the other man, growling impotently as he maintained a careful distance from the patch of sunlight and began to angrily pace the deep safety of the crypt’s darker interior.
“Slayer was right!” Spike yelled out after the Watcher as Giles swept haughtily through the sunlit exit and beyond the vampire’s possible reach. “You’re more trouble than you’re worth. Hope she kicks that ungrateful hide of yours but good when she catches up wi’ you!”
Giles’ final departing gesture was a two fingered salute toward his vampire host, and then striking out into graveyard, the Watcher disappeared into the light of day.
Alone in the cool, darkened crypt, Spike cautiously sidled toward the open doorway, following a treacherously narrow path of shadow toward his goal. Tugging his long sleeve down over his bare hand, he took several rushed swipes at the door, trying to avoid the burning beam of sunlight as he tried to push it shut. After several attempts, the hinges finally gave a satisfying squeal, and the door swung slowly into motion. A reinforcing kick helped speed the process along, and with a loud slam the entrance way closed, and the inside of the crypt was once again plunged back into a safe and comfortable pall of darkness.
The tight scowl on Spike's deformed vampire face slowly began to unfurl. His face gradually shifted, settling back into its human visage, and he turned away from the door with a devilish grin on his lips and a fiendish glint in his eyes.
“Well, that turned out a lot more fun than I’d expected,” the vampire said aloud to himself. Reaching into his pocket, he drew out another cigarette, his grin expanding into a satisfied rumble of laughter as he reflected on what he had done.
He’d been put out when Buffy had come by the night before and asked him to look out after her Watcher. It was obvious Giles was way out of control, his mind lost in some kind of demon possession that had him acting well out of normal character. Spike, of course, hadn’t immediately relished the whole idea of spending his night at home minding the rambunctious Brit. He had better plans than to sit around and babysit a slathering, randy demon. And if it had been anyone but the slayer who had done the asking, he’d have kicked the pair out in a minute without even so much as a guilty thought after about either of them.
But it had been Buffy, and suddenly inspired by what looked like a sure fire way to earn the pretty blonde’s favor and gratitude, if not her actual respect, Spike had grudgingly agreed to help her out. The slayer promised to return and pick up the Watcher the next day, supposedly after the worst of his behavior had rectified itself and the temporary insanity of Giles’ uninhibited libido had passed. Once relieved of her responsibility, Buffy couldn’t seem to get away from her brazenly groping Watcher fast enough, and left Spike to deal with the over stimulated ex-librarian on his own.
Being the practical opportunist that he was, Spike naturally found a positive side to the unexpected windfall that had been foisted into his lap. Checking the Watcher’s pockets, he quickly ascertained that Giles’ wallet was sufficiently padded with both money and credit cards. Grabbing his coat, he’d shoved his fellow countryman out the door, herding him through the streets to the Fish Tank bar.
Chuckling impishly, Spike recalled his wild and entertaining hours with the demon Watcher. The minute they walked into the bar, the ladies started magically gravitating to his companion’s side. Soon a flock of comely beauties was crowded around the Watcher and vampire, and Spike looked on in shocked amusement as his companion proceeded to openly grope and make out with each and every one as they took a turn snuggling in his lap. The bawdy show quickly progressed to clandestine intermissions, at which time Giles disappeared out the back door of the bar with one or two of the girls in tow. Curious, Spike followed the expedition out to the back alley, and was nearly fell over when he discovered Giles and his female companions in the midst of a raunchy rendezvous between the fragrant trash bins full of garbage and piles of greasy boxes containing discarded inventory from the bar.
It was a sight that had touched the flabbergasted vampire with both a sense of awe and the wicked, self-indulgent urge to twist the information so that it might somehow serve to better his advantage. The idea came to him almost immediately. After her resurrection, the slayer had confided in him, telling him and not any of her Scooby friends the big secret about her afterlife in heaven. Buffy was emotionally vulnerable, and he had been about to use her tentative trust to ingratiate himself in her graces when the Watcher had returned.
Spike growled, lighting the cigarette in his hand and taking several angry puffs before flopping down into a chair. The way he saw it, Giles was the one possible thing standing in the way between him and Buffy being a couple. The slayer doted on her Watcher. Went running to him for everything little thing now. It was like Giles turned up, and suddenly Spike was nothing. Forgotten. Well, he wasn’t about to give in quietly and let some poncin’ washed up of a has been of a Watcher take away his woman without a fight. No, sir! Spike had his pride. Fortunately, he also had next to no scruples to speak of, so it didn’t bother him in the least to know that Giles might come out of this on Buffy’s bad list.
It had been deliciously easy to lay the groundwork for his skeazy plan. Giles practically set the first part into motion all on his own. All it took was an endless supply of beer and liquor, courtesy of Giles’ own pocket, and then an equally limitless bevy of willing and interested females, of which the Fish Tank stocked more than its fair share. Nature and demon hormones did the rest, and by the time Spike stumbled home to his crypt with his drunken guest, Giles was primed and suitably ripe for the picking.
An evil grin crooked the vampire’s features as he flicked on his television and sighed. The look on Giles’ face when he’d told him of his indiscretions had been simply priceless, and well worth the set up. Now all he had to do was sit back and wait. The slayer would show up, and Spike would obligingly have to explain what had happened to her. Of course, he’d be sure to leave out those details that might in any way incriminate himself, and emphasize instead the Watcher’s wicked behavior and his own inability to corral the reprehensible demonic beast he had become. Then he would win back the slayer’s good favor and ensure himself a place in her heart.
A hollow tapping sounded at the crypt’s entry.
Spike smiled. Lounging back, he stared at the faces flashing on the television screen before him. He waited patiently as the door swung open and closed, and a pair of shuffling footsteps slowly made their way to his side. Resisting the temptation to look up, he carefully kept his face composed, ignoring her presence as he played the role of the bored vampire.
“Oh, Slayer! Sorry. Didn’t hear you come in.”
If his undead heart could beat, he was sure she would have heard it pounding as her eyes searched the crypt, looking for her Watcher.
“Uh, where’s Giles?”
“Yeah, well, I’m afraid I’ve got a bit of bad news for you about that,” he replied, making sure to interject a calculated note of contrition with just the right tone of accompanying guilt into his speech. Then, calmly, with his best understanding face, Spike proceeded to relate news of her Watcher’s earlier departure as well as his ribald activities, while generously readying a sympathetic shoulder for the slayer to cry upon.